Agricultural environment - Sustainability

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS…

21 June 2015

For some time I have been surprised and sometimes disappointed to hear or read about the subject “natural wine”, especially regarding the terminology used. I would therefore like to share my feelings by reminding readers of the significance of some of the most frequently used words.

Butterfies in the vineyard are an indication of preserved environment

Nature: means competition, fighting, food… survival and development, which takes place next to us. “Human disturbance”, in differing intensity and invasiveness, for the possession of land leads to dualism between cultivation and ‘weed’. It’s a system that’s very dynamic and well adapted to local conditions that encroaches on the gene pools including relations with diseases (which always accompany any biological organism). So a ‘romantic’ or ‘dreamer’ attitude is fine, but coming down to the field and trying to better reflect the human encumbrance would, in my opinion, be more appropriate.

Chemistry: a word often used to denote anything negative and to be shied away from. Instead it’s worth remembering that the ‘queen’ of life is chemistry, biochemistry etc. regulated by genetic information at the base of the ecosystem: a wonderful and fascinating science that we always learning more about.
The outstanding example of the biochemical reactions that lead to berry grapes and then wine and… finally vinegar should help us understand the energies that govern the fate of more stable forms. If man sometimes intrudes in these steps with the improper use of the chemical reaction, it should not discredit the entire science.

Spring flowers in the vineyard

Biodiversity: a buzzword uttered by everyone, in every area and sometimes… a magic word. It seems to me that there is a sudden awakening… but where we were before? Maybe we didn’t know that one-day of household dust contains 1,000 dust mites? Or that the soil is not inert but full of inhabitants and physical, chemical and microbiological reactions that influence each other in complex cycles? Biological diversity is a primitive and variously dynamic state; agriculture modifies it while its projected goals are maximum benefit with least energy expenditure. I believe we have a long way to go before we better understand our ‘disruption’ to produce food. So, we’re better off working to provide results useful to the cause and limit slogans that don’t lead anywhere.

Grafting in the vineyard in May

Mowing by hand between rows

Resistance: I still don’t know against whom. For starters, wine can’t listen and not even the vine knows of our presence. We are sometimes overcome by hard to justify emphases that risk coming together in areas far apart from agriculture. Instead of making fake Carbonari or leaders of anything, I think it’s more productive to try to build credible representatives to walk the roads of institutional debate (at local, regional, national and foreign levels) in order to collaborate effectively in the legislation regarding the sector. But to be invited to the discussion table, we must be united, prepared and ready for dialogue. It’s not about finding a more appropriate term for “natural” wine, but making it clear to the whole world the vital need to change our ‘selfish’ productive attitude and demonstrate how economically sustainable the alternative is.

And finally I would like to remind you of the true meaning of the word artisan, from the Latin ‘artes’: able to act and produce on the basis of knowledge and technical experience, creative economic activity for non-serial services in a family or group with a limited number of employees according to the work cycle, resorting mainly to manual means. And with the current situation of a Greece (and beyond) oppressed by an international financial noose, we could all benefit from re-reading the Latin phrase of Horace (Letters, II, 1, 156): “Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes intulit agresti Latio” or “Greece, the captive (of Rome), made her savage victor captive, and brought the arts into rustic Latium”. A contemporary interpretation… to be more artisan in the future and to be more concrete, prepared and effective.

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